Bansko interview; the artist behind the map

Nov 07, 2013 No Comments by


Pollina is the artist behind Bansko Town & Piste Map, by hand. We are working on the final improvements to the map before printing on paper, posting here for free download and free in resort. So I took time to learn more about Pollina, known as Jo Iyaa ( Read on for her, at time hard hitting views of her life and work in Bulgaria.

NEW for 2013/14 season!! The Bansko Town & Piste maps are available on large microfibre ski goggle and lens cleaners. 100% free of charge for all people in the group booking discounted ski packages here, and online, at

Map character by Pollina


Tell me about your early years?
I was born in Plovdiv and have one brother. I come from artist parents. My father is a sculpture artist and my mother is a painter. They both now work as restorers of wall paintings and church murals to ancient roman remains.

What about your education and when did your artistic talents emerge?

I attended the English language school in Plovdiv. This was between the ages of 13 to 18. I loved dancing classical and jazz ballet, inspired by MTV.

How did you develop your skills at University?

I went to the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia  (“NATFA”). Whilst there I was especially pleased to be accepted on the animation speciality course. But the community of like minded people studying arts with me was inspiring. I graduated in 2009.

How did you support yourself at University?

I did the usual student type of work… bar work, promos etc. But in 2007 I took some time out and went to Malaysia. I was employed as an artist for a company building leisure resorts. I was a “concept artist”.

My job was to draw the ideas of the slides / zoos, safari areas in a water and amusement park. It was challenging but a whole lot of fun. It was quite an adventure to be on Penang Island. I was 21 then.

Map character by Pollina

What was your first full job out after University?

In 2009 I worked in agency for graphic design for four months. It was then that I did not take to being an employee. I knew that being a freelancer was my way forward.

Describe your typical day?

There’s no typical day. It so much depends on the project. I often get the creative energy very early in the morning and get up at 4:00 am… or late at night.

My most recent projects as been computer game graphic design.

How easy do you find it to find inspiration in Sofia?

In Sofia… well, I have an aesthetic issue with Sofia. 90% of it is quite ugly.

But I do see things in Sofia there trigger my imagination. Just yesterday I went down a street I had never walked down before and saw a most beautiful building. I went back many times!

I love to travel, the Greek seaside, Italian cities are so beautiful. If I observe things carefully I find inspiration almost everywhere I look in those countries.

What holds back the successful deployment of sympathetic public projects?

Generalisations are always wrong, so I have to be careful here. But, in my experience, Bulgarian people can be selfish. Especially those in position of authority. Corruption, nepotism and ignorance and lack of money combine to produce some horrendous errors in public spaces. Most recently I see the new Vistosha street pedestrianised area as a huge missed opportunity.
I am interested in your description of a certain type of Bulgarian character, tell me more?

Quite a large group of people do no seem to have any shame, when referring to their behaviour. They cannot see the errors of their ways. It may because there are not so many good examples of people in the media spotlight on how to behave properly.

I also see a general disrespect for others, and the community we live in. Often selfish behaviour, with a lack of regard to others, is perceived as a good thing. It’s bizarre, but true, and I think not only have these behaviour patterns hindered Bulgaria’s progression since being the end of out communist era. It impairs some everyday pleasures.

Map ski character by Pollina

This sounds a bit depressing, and I want to return to the matter of the EU in a moment; but are there some good examples of good artist work in public spaces?

Yes, there are many and here is one example that seems to be swimming against the tide. A communist era cinema in Plovdiv that was threatened to be demolished to make room for a car park for a shopping Mall nearby. (LN: reminds me of Joni Mitchell’s famous “Big Yellow Taxi” song). The community of people who cared got together and renovated the building. All donating their time for free.

The collective community spirit can be found. There is a sense that a new generation that has travelled to UK, Germany and and can see how people seem to be able to collaborate and work alongside each other in a way that can benefit the whole community.

How do you think Bulgarians are thought of in western European countries?

Quite often as the cleaner or chamber made, or the seasonal worker picking fruit. Or more recently as the Roma causing problems.

This is an unfortunate image. Will this change from 1st January 2014 when the border of the UK open up to free movement of people from Bulgaria and Romania?

I think many more Bulgarians will travel to the UK from 2014. But I expect it will be same people who have been inclined to immigrate as before. It will be the Roma immigrants that will grab the headlines. Many of the other well educated Bulgarians coming to the UK to work hard, in skilled jobs, will not be the media focus.

This is the second year of the Bansko Town & Piste Map, by hand and we are making the final touches before printingWhich of the characters in the Bansko map by hand you drew, do you like the most?

I like them all. I feel special sympathy for each of them!


Tips (news) of the day

  • Carrefour supermarket are coming to Bansko Mall in December
  • New pavements going in (hurrahhh)
  • Early ski package booking now on



About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.
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